It is not uncommon for companies to opt for unusual or illegal methods of advertising to attract customers and to boost their sales. The term “bait and switch” is one of those legal methods opted by businesses to lure customers.
There have been many incidents when customers complain about the “bait and switch” tactic used by businesses. Making the use of bait and switch marketing strategy can have severe legal implications such as huge fines, prosecution, cancellation of business license, and permanent closure of the business.
However, if you are using such a tactic to boost your business, but there is nothing illegal about it, then you can take advantage of this unusual and shady selling tactic. In this article, you will learn all about bait and switch. Let us begin with learning about the definition of bait and switch selling tactic.
Bait and switch is a scam where businesses advertise products or services at attractive bargain deals or low prices and try to sell different items or other expensive items when an interested customer decides to buy it.
What is bait and switch Technique?
Bait and switch is a type of advertising where goods are advertised as incredible bargains. The intention behind using false advertising is to sell inferior or expensive products at the time of purchase. This tactic got its name from the activity of catching fish using bait. For example, fish catchers use maggots or insects as bait to attract fish. Similarly, a businessman uses “incredible bargain” to attract customers.
This tactic is used to lure customers into stores for the deal that they believe to be good to be true and at the place of that deal, customers are offered a completely different deal. The placement of different deals at the site of deal advertised is referred to as “switch”. The deal can be inferior at the place of the product advertised or the same product but at a much higher price than advertised. Both scenarios are considered as the case of fraud, and both can be punishable acts by the law.
This type of advertising tactic is used mostly for the sales of electronic items like digital cameras and their accessories, television, computers, camera lenses, audio equipment, and blu-rays players, etc. But that doesn’t mean that other types of businesses don’t use this advertising tactic to attract customers. Businesses of various sizes have used bait and switch advertising methods to boost their business. You will find the bait and switch advertising for one time to meal to internet services.
How does bait and switch advertising work?
The basic idea behind the “bait and switch” advertising is to offer deals to customers that are too good to be true. For example, a retail store advertises to sell an android smartphone with latest features at a dust price such as $50 when the actual market price of the product is $500.
Everyone knows that this deal is too good to be true, but still, many people fall for this deal. And when these customers go to the store to buy a smartphone, they are offered different options such as:
1. The smartphone advertised is sold out, but different smartphone available at $200
This smartphone has fewer features than the smartphone advertised and is offered to you at four times higher price. Many people who have travelled to the store to buy the smartphone fall for this bait and rather than going back to home empty-handed they choose to pay a high price to buy inferior products.
This option is the most common option that businesses mostly use to make people buy their products.
2. The product is available, but it is much more expensive than stated in the advertisement
This is a trick to force customers, who walked to the store, to buy the same product but at a higher price. They will be told the offer was valid only for the first two customers or they will be told that the product mentioned in the advertisement is not available.
Still, a similar product with little bit different features is available. In both scenarios, the customers are forced to buy a product at three-four times higher price than the product mentioned in the advertisement.
The skills of the salesperson interacting with you in the store make it very difficult for customers to turn down the deal.
3. The product is available, but it is not the same product which is mentioned in the advertisement
Sometimes stores sell cheap or fake copies of products advertised in the advertisement. The product could be refurbished; all the features of the product are removed and stripped down to the basic features.
Naive customers usually fall for such baits, because it is not illegal to sell fake products. But remember that even if it is legal to sell counterfeit or refurbished products, it is unlawful to advertise differently and sell different or inferior products.
Signs of Bait and Switch scams
Even though you will come across bait and switch advertisements daily, it is not hard to identify or point out such deals. In this section, you will learn about a few warning signs that will help you to stay away from such traps.
1. Too good to be true:
The first and most apparent sign of “bait and switch” advertising is that it is too good to be true. Sellers try to attract customers by offering attractive deals on the products that they sell.
The simple way to save yourself from this trap is by asking a simple question that a seller can afford to sell a product at such a low price. Sellers who sell genuine products and do business honestly would never want to lose money by selling their products at low dust price.
This can happen only in sporadic cases when a company is going out of the business and is trying to recover its investment by selling its products at low prices. Attracting customers with low prices is one of the popular advertising methods. Therefore, stay away from the offers that are too good to be true.
2. Print of the advertisement is not clear
Advertisers with malicious intentions opt for this strategy. You will find a lot of small and challenging to read details at the bottom of the advertisement. If you see such an advertisement try to stay away from it because such ads are generally scams.
Some businesses give disclaimers like offers valid for limited products or conditions for customers to become eligible to get the offer, while supply lasts in their advertising.
3. Difficult to understand pricing terms
Another common sign of Bait and Switch advertising scam is misleading or confusing pricing terms. Providing confusing information in advertisements, the advertisers try to mislead the customers. For example, a car seller attracts his customers with low monthly instalments to buy a car, but they don’t mention the duration of the payment term.
4. No or limited information about the seller
When businesses opt for Bait and Switch advertising methods, they try to hide information about the seller to avoid any lawsuit.
5. Final deals
The Bait and switch advertising usually comes with final deals such as no return policy or non-refundable policy. In many scenarios, the customers are not able to contact the seller again. Learn about all such deals before making a final purchase no matter much the salesperson is persuasive.
6. The advertised product runs out of stock
When a customer visits a store influenced by the Bait and Switch advertising, he will usually be told that the store ran out of stock. If a salesperson is genuine & honest and if the advertisement is not a scam, then the salesperson will apologize to you. But the other salesperson will start promoting your different products.
7. Salesperson force you different deals
When you are offered different deals at the place of the deal mentioned in the advertisement, then it is a clear sign of the bait and switch advertising. No honest business will try to sell a product which is different from the product advertised in the advertisement.
However, it is also common to confuse honest advertisements with bait and switch advertising. In the next section, you will learn about the signs that will tell you what is not a bait and switch advertising.
Signs for not a “Bait and switch” advertising
1. Pricing error
This is one of the most common scenarios which is mistaken as bait and switch advertising. This happens when a business prints the low price for an expensive item. For example, a store owner mistakenly publishes the amount of $50 for an iPhone 11 max pro. This deal is too good to be true. The honest seller will give you the product at a price advertised.
2. Limited quantity offer
In this type of advertising, the seller mentions the offer is valid for a limited number of units of products or first 5 or 10 customers. This type of advertising is not “Bait and Switch” advertising.